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Second level .au domains are coming in March

Existing registrants will have only 6 months to claim matching domains.

Picture of a kangaroo hoping
Australians will need to hop to it if they want to secure second level domains.

Australia will release second level .au domain names starting March 24, 2022. That means that companies and individuals will soon be able to use domains like example.au rather than example.com.au.

The country is following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, which released second level domains in 2014.

It’s a controversial move, with many owners of third level domains complaining about added confusion and feeling they are forced to pay fees to protect their existing brands.

In the United Kingdom, .co.uk is still the preferred option over .uk. In 2019, five years after second level .uk domains became an option, only 10% of new registrations were second level.

Australia is working on a much shorter timetable than .uk, too. Owners of third level .uk domains were given up to five years to secure their matching second level domains before they were released to the general public. Australia is affording just six months.

Starting in March, owners of third level .au domains can apply to get the second level domain. They’ll get the domain quickly if there are no matching registrations in other second level domains, such as .com.au, .net.au and .org.au.

If the string is registered in multiple domains, there will be an interesting process that is somewhat reminiscent of new top level domains. If one was registered on or before February 4, 2018 and the other was after that date, then the person who registered it first gets the domain. But if both were registered on or before February 4, 2018, then the two (or more) applicants are asked to negotiate amongst themselves to determine who gets the domain. If they don’t come to an agreement, then the name remains reserved and they can apply again a year later.

While most people will agree that second level domains are better than third level ones, introducing the second level domains after third level domains are widely used creates lots of complications. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Australia.

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  1. Ed Seaford says

    Thanks Alan. A good analysis.

    In both UK and New Zealand neither .uk or .nz had the commercial or social impact that their Registries had hoped for. Most registrations seem to be defensive, parked or redirected domain names.

    It is likely that the .au domain launch will achieve similar results; it would stimulate economic activity for Registrars but at the cost of brand owners with little in way of upside (traffic etc).

    Where we see a small amount of upside is in offering business an alternative space with new opportunities to register the brands they want, as oppossed to settling for ‘what they can find or afford’ in an over crowded .com.au domain name space. However, .com.au will always be the preferred Aussie space.

  2. Ed says

    I will be very interesting to see what the take up will be. You’d think most businesses will need tot take up the domain name for brand protection purposes, but jury is out whether we will see any digital properties of note launch on a .au domain.

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